Fewer Pupils Qualify for Gifted Programs, by Al Baker


Parents: Scores are out and fewer NYC students qualified for G&T this year. If you would like to read this article at the NY Times website, CLICK HERE. Scores may have gone down because the NYC DOE now puts more weight on the verbal portion of the test, which puts kids who speak multiple languages at a disadvantage.

Fewer Pupils Qualify for Gifted Programs

APRIL 4, 2014

The numbers of children qualifying for seats in gifted programs in New York City public schools declined this year, the Education Department said on Friday, though they were still far higher than when citywide admissions testing began a few years ago.

Of the 14,605 children tested this year for admission to gifted kindergarten classes in September, 4,590 scored high enough to qualify, a decrease from the 5,390 who qualified a year earlier, according to data released Friday by the Education Department.

As recently as 2008, only 2,230 students qualified. Since then, there has been a rise in the number of children taking the test and in eligibility. Students must score in the 90th percentile to qualify for gifted seats in their districts, and in the 97th percentile to be eligible for one of the five citywide gifted programs. But because so many children score so high, even most of those who score in the 99th percentile do not win citywide seats.

Last year, the department changed one of the two admissions tests, which are given back-to-back in one session. A major reason for the change was to combat the advantages of children receiving pretest tutoring, but the number of students qualifying still increased. This year, the department changed the way it weighted the two tests, giving equal footing to its verbal and nonverbal sections “to improve the psychometric balance across the two tests,” a spokesman said.

Michael McCurdy, a co-founder of TestingMom.com, an online service that provides practice test materials and advice for parents, said he believed the change might worsen the existing racial imbalance in gifted programs. That is because the verbal parts of the test “seem to have more bias to high-language, English-speaking-only households,” he said.

The Education Department did not release results for each racial and ethnic group. But some of the largest percentage drops in the numbers of children qualifying for gifted kindergarten seats occurred in predominantly black and Hispanic areas of eastern and central Brooklyn and the northern Bronx. The Brooklyn districts covering Canarsie and East New York saw numbers drop by more than half.

The schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, ended a program for gifted students at Public School 6, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, when she was the school’s principal in the 1990s. Asked whether she was contemplating any changes in the gifted programs, or in the admissions process, the department said only that the policies were still under review. Before 2008, the department used a system in which each of the city’s 32 districts could set their own criteria, including schoolwork and teacher recommendations, for admission.

In a statement, Devora Kaye, a department spokeswoman, said, “We continue to look at alternative ways to identify gifted students through verbal and nonverbal assessments and promote geographical diversity in these programs.”

The number of gifted seats changes each year based on demand and space, but many of those who qualified will not receive one.

Last year, about 3,000 incoming kindergartners were offered seats in gifted classes.

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